Eastern Edge – Eastern Conference Candidates for Decline

by Eric Daoust on September 20, 2016
  • Eastern Edge
  • Eastern Edge – Eastern Conference Candidates for Decline

This week, the Eastern Edge looks at players set for a statistical decline, including Jaromir Jagr and Evgeny Kuznetsov …


Throughout their careers, all players experience ups and downs. Examples of factors influencing these changes include injuries, ice time, line combinations and even a move to a new organization. Regardless of the reason, sometimes things work out better than they should and the player can put up numbers above anyone’s expectations. In fantasy land, the effects are significant because one of the key factors in winning a league championship is getting more out of players than their draft position would suggest.

However, after the season is over the high production often translates to inflated fantasy value and will even impact his draft position the following fall. Even experienced managers tend to put more stock into recent events and will overlook the player’s overall history. This usually leads to players being selected earlier than they should with potential disaster awaiting.

Today we will look at 10 candidates to suffer a setback this year in the Eastern Conference and why they are in a position to fall short of expectations.



Tyler Bozak (Toronto)

In past years, Bozak did a great job developing chemistry with Phil Kessel which led to some very productive campaigns. Last year was Kessel’s first in Pittsburgh and many thought Bozak would suffer greatly. Amazingly, he posted an impressive 35 points in 57 games on a very weak roster. The surprising numbers made him a solid depth addition in deeper leagues while healthy.

This year, the outlook is much less promising. The Leafs committed long-term to Nazem Kadri and just drafted Auston Matthews with the first pick of this summer’s entry draft. With the top two lines occupied at the center position, Bozak likely falls to the third line. Not only does this mean a reduction in ice time, it also means he will not get as many opportunities in offensive situations. In 2015-16 he started about 57 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. Look for this to change as Bozak shifts to playing tougher minutes. Furthermore, the Leafs have a major lack in depth on the wings which will leave Bozak with mediocre linemates on most nights. Outside of extremely deep leagues you should probably pass on him this year.


Mike Cammalleri (New Jersey)

Cammalleri posted an incredible 38 points in 42 games last year. Given his age (34) he was not valued highly by most managers and became one of the top additions off the waiver wire, at least when healthy. The uptick in production was the result of developing great chemistry with Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak, as each member of this unit performed well above expectations. With Stempniak gone and Taylor Hall in, the likelihood of Cammalleri receiving preferential treatment in line combinations is slim at best. Assuming he comes back down to earth this year, his history prior to last year’s outburst can serve as a guide for what do expect:

Over the four previous seasons, Cammalleri’s points-per-game rate landed somewhere between 0.6 and 0.7 points per game. The chart also shows how often he has been injured over the years – last year was nothing new. Even with reduced production he could find his way onto your roster when he is playing as he has a history of providing good offensive value. Just make sure you avoid drafting him hoping for a repeat.


Scott Hartnell (Columbus)

Hartnell most recently posted 49 points and continued to be a high-end, multi-category contributor. Case in point, over each of the last three years he has produced 20 or more goals, 26 of more assists, 100 or more PIM, 130 or more hits, 150 or more shots and 12 or more power-play points. However, there were some major red flags, most notably his ice time which fell to an average of 15:35 per game – barely second-line minutes. There were also instances where he worked himself into head coach John Tortorella’s doghouse including being scratched on three occasions. There were also reports Hartnell was ready to move on to a new team, which has not happened just yet.

This year, the Blue Jackets will be getting some reinforcements up front with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sam Gagner leading the way. Both have the potential to climb up the depth chart, and if Hartnell’s spot in the top-six is not secure this could mean trouble. From the third line he will not come anywhere close to 50 points, although he will still provide tons of value in multi-category leagues. Just be careful if you are relying on him for offense.


Jaromir Jagr (Florida)

Last year, Jagr’s legend continued to grow as he finished with 66 points, just outside the top-20, at the age of 44. Coming off a 47-point campaign in 2014-15, many poolies had written him off as a major contributor, leaving his lucky owners with a high-end offensive contributor that they either drafted late or picked up off the wire. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this continuing is very slim as Jagr benefited from things rolling in his favor all year. Let’s take a look at his buy/sell chart from his Frozen Pool profile page:

The biggest area of concern is his shooting percentage which ranked fifth in the whole league. He has not had a percentage this high in nearly two decades which means it will likely come back down this year. Over the last five years, his combined shooting percentage is 12.4 percent. Adjusting his 27 goals from last year to this percentage, he would have had just 18 goals. He should still be productive given the strong lineup around him in Florida but should definitely fall short of 60 points. Play it safe and pencil him closer to 50 points. In all likelihood, he will be picked before he makes his way to the top of your draft list.


Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington)

Kuznetsov surprised many by notching 77 points last year, which ranked him 10th in the league in scoring. This was more than double the 37 he produced the prior year, his first full campaign in the NHL. Even more amazing was the fact he was able to accomplish this feat while centering the second line. Essentially, he did it without the benefit of having Alexander Ovechkin on his wing. Instead, he centered the likes of Justin Williams, Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson and still put up points at a star level.

However, this gives us cause for concern moving forward. The Capitals just had a dream season where everything went as well as it could go during the regular season. Assuming things do not go quite as well this year, the decline would affect players throughout the roster. Even though Kuznetsov led the Capitals in points he is not truly the focal point of the offense, so he could be more vulnerable to suffer a setback, especially if his wingers are not as potent. A 10-point drop would take Kuznetsov out of the league’s elite but would still leave him at a very high level.


Lee Stempniak (Carolina)

As mentioned, Stempniak’s strong 2015-16 campaign was the result of some great chemistry on the top line in New Jersey. Prior to his 51-point effort he had not reached the 40-point mark since 2010 which put him well under the radar on draft day. Even after his trade to Boston he showed encouraging signs with 10 points in 19 games, showing he can put up points outside of the perfect scenario he had with the Devils.

Now in Carolina, things do not look as promising. There is a severe lack of established offensive contributors up front and the Hurricanes will be giving opportunities to young players like Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, both of which offer a ton of long-term potential. Stempniak will still be relied on for offense and 40 points could happen, but he will have to strike gold once again with great line chemistry to repeat last year’s performance.



Zdeno Chara (Boston)

Prior to last year, Chara was in rapid decline and had become an afterthought in leagues that do not take advantage of his physical play. Things changed in a hurry, as the Bruins were very effective offensively and were deadly on the power play, especially in the first half. Chara rebounded in a big way with 37 points. However, it should be noted he slowed down significantly at the end as he had just five points in his last 23 games while the Bruins lost their hold on a playoff spot.

With a few Bruins likely in for a decline following the unexpected surge at the offensive end, look for Chara to suffer accordingly. He is especially vulnerable to a drop in production if Colin Miller finally becomes an effective full-time NHLer, and if Torey Krug bounces back quickly from offseason shoulder surgery. This would keep Chara off the top power-play unit again which would further limit his short-term upside. He could still push for 30 points but in all likelihood will fall around 25 while being more of a defensive force contributing in multi-category leagues.


Dmitry Orlov (Washington)

Not surprisingly, Orlov had a career year as the Capitals won the Presidents Trophy. Considering he is still just 25 and has limited experience at the NHL level, this could be an indication the young blueliner is on the upswing. While he does have some untapped potential, the conditions are not ideal for him to continue producing. Last year’s 29-point effort happened despite a meager 16:02 in average ice time (third-pairing minutes) and a limited presence on the power play.

Unless Orlov’s role changes dramatically do not expect this trend to continue especially with the Capitals being expected to come back down to earth a bit as a team. Unfortunately, with John Carlson and Matt Niskanen in the mix this is highly unlikely barring injury. Plus, with Brooks Orpik back healthy it seems unlikely Orlov will climb up the depth chart for the time being. In a secondary scoring role look for him to finish around 25 points.



Frederik Andersen (Toronto)

In his three years with the Ducks, Andersen posted some outstanding numbers including an impressive 77-26-12 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. As with any goalie, the fantasy numbers look much better when the team in front is as good as the Ducks have been in recent years. Using this logic, Andersen’s numbers are about to take a hit as he is about to begin his first year with the Maple Leafs.

Most importantly, Andersen’s win/loss record is going to suffer greatly in Toronto. In Anaheim, he won 67 percent of his decisions. Look for this number to slip well below 50 percent this year. Obviously, his goals-against average will take a hit as well and his save percentage is also likely lose a few points behind the Leafs’ poor defense. He will not be a dead fantasy asset by any means, especially in deeper leagues, but his past numbers should not be used as a sign of things to come.


Braden Holtby (Washington)

Holtby’s mention has more to do with the unlikelihood of repeating last year’s 48 wins than it does with any concern about his peripheral numbers. In fact, his win total tied the all-time record for a single season. He won 75 percent of his decisions – an impossible rate to maintain especially if the Capitals take a bit of a step back this year. 

Looking back at Holtby’s 2014-15 numbers, his 41 wins were achieved in 73 games. Last year, he had a better backup in Philipp Grubauer and his workload was reduced to 66 appearances. Assuming Holtby’s utilization is similar this year there is even a chance he could fall short of 40 wins. However, even with such a big drop in wins he would still rank among the league’s elite goaltenders.



Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.